Torvi Ulfrigdottir

Torvi Ulfrigdottir stood with the other women of the village, shivering in the bitterest of winds.  She grasped the furs tightly around her, but it did little to stop the wind’s bite.  She was only a few days past the birth of her child, but a targ woman was not one to lay in bed.  Besides, she wanted to be there when the warriors returned.


The mood in the village was somber.  The men had gone out to defeat a group of raiders days ago and had yet to return.  The women were normally stoic and taciturn, but their faces showed fear and worry for husbands and sons.  Word had come from a trader that a small group of men were returning, far fewer than had set out.  Every wife and mother hoped that it would not be their day to learn that their loved ones were lost.


Torvi’s heart lifted as she saw her father Ulfrig, the clan leader, come into view on the hill.  Others gasped to see just a handful of men walk with him.  Like every other woman present, Torvi desperately scanned the faces of those men, desperate to find son, husband, father or brother.   


But Torvi’s heart sank as she did not see her mate, Brodhi, in the pack of battered and beaten warriors walking back into the village.  Her heart cracked completely when she saw her father walk up to her, his face a mask of cold iron.


Torvi reached a hand to her father, but he shook his head.  “Brodhi’s dead,” he said simply, almost callously. 


“Did – did he die well?” Torvi choked out through her grief.  Ulfrig shrugged.  “He died.  Chopped down by a raider before he even knew what happened.”  He raised up a great axe in front of him.  “With his last breath, he bade me take his axe back to give to his son.  He did that well, at least.”


Torvi gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.  “But – I – the child was born three days past.  It was a girl.”


Ulfrig gave a snorted laugh.  “Pity,” he chuckled, and moved past his daughter.


Much like her heart, time froze for the young targ maiden.  With a sight beyond sight, she saw all that she had dreamt of, all that she had planned for her life, shatter and die.  Whatever love, whatever respect or even affection she felt for her father and her tribe died in that moment as well.  The ice lasted for but an instant, however.  For it was quickly burned away by fury.  She reached out and grabbed her father’s arm and turned him back toward her.  He looked down at the offending hand in anger.  The anger turned to something like fear when he looked up and met his daughter’s gaze.


“Brodhi was my husband,” she said with scorn.  “You stood over our handfasting.  With his death, all that was his is now mine.  I would have that axe.”


A sneer.  “What would it gain you?  Unless you mean to sell it.  I daresay your infant babe cannot wield it.”


“It is mine by ancient right,” Torvi spat.  “But I will not sell it.  I mean to use it myself.  To avenge my husband’s death.”


Ulfrig gave a hearty laugh.  “The bear cub has fangs!  Bah!  Here, take it, daughter, but your vengeance is cold.  The bandit who killed him is dead by my hand.  Who, then, will you chop down with it?”


“The world,” she said in a whisper.  She grasped the axe in her hands and rushed off to her shack.


The baby died three weeks later. 


It was a sickness that traveled through the targ people in some winters, especially harsh ones.  And it had been a terrible winter.  The poultices and potions of the wise women were useless.  A shaman had been summoned, but he arrived too late to save the babe.  A grave was chopped out of the frozen, iron-hard ground, Ulfrig laid the small bundle in the hole and covered it with dirt and snow.


“Just as well,” he grunted as he finished his grisly task.  “She was weak, like her father.  The tribe needs strength now that we’ve lost so may warriors.”


Torvi stood silent, immobile.  Her father’s words raised a fury inside her, but her face was a cold mask of calm.  She did not trust her voice to speak.  She feared that if she spoke, she would curse him.  If that happened, one or both of them would die.  Instead, she turned to face him and simply stared.  After a few moments, he mumbled a half-hearted apology and walked away.


I will not put another child into this cold, iron earth, she thought.  I curse you, Sarosha, and your pitiless, icy wastes. 


The next day, she and the axe were gone.